Home' East and Bays Courier : February 1st 2012 Contents www.eastandbayscourier.co.nz
6 EAST & BAYS COURIER, FEBRUARY 1, 2012
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Those who care --
It's a photo of a smiling baby holding a
little teddy bear. He's looking up at a
smiling face, both full of love.
I wept when I saw those smiles --
and the words that went with them.
They're an echo of a top-level call for
an urgent study of Child Youth and
Family's duty to provide for young
children like him.
This deep concern is from those
closest to the resulting pain -- carers
who lovingly, willingly choose to carry
the day and night burden of children
They tell of tears and fears, and
paint a worrying picture.
Carers' experiences shared with this
column bear out the concerns of former
ombudsman Mel Smith whose report
quoted last week calls for urgent study
and action involving kin placement''
and concerns among professionals
that, too often, the wishes of a parent
or parents or whanau prevail.
That Smith report highlighted major
problems which need urgent attention
from the government -- and a Maori
community and MPs appearing to
ignore a problem which too often ends
in injury or death for children who
That photo illustrates just one case
history of many from critical carers:
I collected him from a local hos-
pital. A tiny scrap at one day old, but
Typically, there was no social
worker with me as I went about the
myriad of papers to sign upon release
into my care and the obvious
instructions from hospital staff.
Both his parents are in their 30s --
mother has drug problems and is tran-
She had another child from another
relationship, now in his teens and liv-
ing with his biological father. She has
been estranged from her own family
for many years, working and living on
The baby was unnamed and
remained so for the first six weeks. Of
course we gave him a name for the
time being. We loved him.
We made it clear after only those
first weeks that we were happy to look
at a home with us for life.
But CYF was looking into extended
family of both his parents for options
for his care with whanau.
None of his father's family was
A maternal uncle and his partner
were but that uncle had a long list of
convictions, including violence and
past gang associations.
It took six months for a decision on
this wee boy. By that time,
understandably, he had formed strong
bonds with our family and us with
His father came weekly for
supervised access. Although he was
unsuitable to parent, he was commit-
ted to these visits.
He was slowing down the process of
a permanent placement, not wanting
the baby taken out of the area. CYF
eventually manipulated his decision by
promising him regular air travel and
accommodation for visiting.
But I've no doubt he was coerced
into signing, allowing his son to be
taken so far away.
The maternal grandmother then
became CYF's next option -- almost as
if she was the best they could come up
with to keep the stats looking good --
baby's return to whanau.
I spoke with grandma on the phone
and had many concerns over what she
said, which I documented.
I reported these to CYF's social
workers along with my own concerns
over attachments, etc, and -- given her
age -- the long-term future for the
child. Grandmother was 62. She'd be
80 in his late teens.
I also wanted to ensure the best,
thorough transition over several days
to allow the baby the best possible
move to his new family. I was basically
told where to go by CYF.
Even offering our own home for
grandma to stay and be able to care for
baby in familiar surroundings as she
got to know him and his routines, that
she come to our house to see where her
grandson had lived and been loved all
those months ...
But no way.
She had made it clear that she and
her husband's lifestyles as retired
people wouldn't change in any way as
CYF would have to pick up the slack so
they could continue with holidays, gym
time, golf, etc.
We had a follow-up phone call after
he left, and a watered-down offer of
counselling after I explained the huge
impact his new placement had on our
family including our children. Also
their lack of follow-up support for us.
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